|Begum Hazrat Mahal. parishi26.blogspot.com|
Begum Hazrat Mahal (1820 – 7 April 1879), alias Begum of Awadh, was forced to rebel against the dishonest East India company and its corrupt officials when her husband Nawab Wajid Ali Shah had been exiled to Calcutta (Kolkata). She was one of the daring rebels during the major Indian rebellion called the Great Mutiny or the Sepoy Revolt against the British rulers who treated the Indians shabbily.
Mahal's early name was Muhammadi Khanum and her birth place was Faizabad, Awadh, India. Coming from a poor family of courtesan, after leaving her parents she ended up becoming a royal concubine of the King of Oudh. Being smart and intelligent, she won the heart of the ruler. Soon after the birth of her son Birjis Qadra, her name was changed to Hazrat Mahal and she officially became a wife of the last Tajdaar-e-Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah.
Even though the Nawob of Awadh had been a loyal alley of the British and gave them cooperation as much as he could, the British were ungrateful to him. Glued their eyes on the rich kingdom, in 1856 the British annexed Awadh under Lieutenant General Sir James Outram. The reason being Awadh which was an independent kingdom had military cooperation with the British for a fee consideration plus concession of trade for the British. The British, foxy as they were, encouraged this kind of military alliance with the Indian ruler in order to make them run into debt. In reality the East India company, under the British with blessings from the Crown, was a sort of loan-shark company. Once you get into this trap, you will come out just like plain banana with skin fully pealed off. At one stage the ruler of Awadh was unable to pay the annual fees to the British company because most of his tax collectors in his kingdom were corrupt. As the arrears due to the British went way up far beyond redemption, as a last resort they confiscated the lands. The Nawob of Awadh was without his knowledge caught in this mouse trap in 1856. Wiggling out this kind of British bear hug was a tough one; hence his exile (March 13, 1856) in Calcutta.
Mahal's early name was Muhammadi Khanum and her birth place was Faizabad, Awadh, India. Coming from a family of courtesan, after leaving her parents she ended up becoming a royal concubine of the King of Oudh. Soon after the birth of her son Birjis Qadra, her name was changed to Hazrat Mahal and she officially became a wife of the last Tajdaar-e-Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah.
From he fast spread of the Indian rebellion of 1857-1858 like summer bush fire and the active participation of many rulers or their family members in the revolt, one can give get a kaleidoscopic view of how much the Indian natives hated the British and to what extend the foreigners made the tolerable, easy-going Indians despise them. When Hazrat Mahal took the sword against the British as a regent of her son, defending Awadh, she got ample support from Raja Jailal Singh. However, the British seized control of Lucknow. Subsequently in association Nana Shaheb, a great Maratha warrior and others she continued to fight against the British forces ' She also joined hands with the Maulavi of Faizabad in the attack on Shahjahanpur.
During that time in some parts, the British in the name of progress and using other excuses, pulled down mosques and temples to lay roads not for common use but to transport military, etc for their convenience. Further, the indirectly supported the spread of Christianity. When Hazrat Mahal came to know about it, she was highly critical of their being secular and non interference in religious matter.
Having found her place unsafe and after long deliberation, she was given asylum by the Nepal ruler prime minister Jang Bahadur. She died in Nepal after 20 year of exile in 1879. She was the only leader never surrendered to the British and continuously was critical of the East India company and the Crown till her last days. She was laid to rest in Juma Masjid in Kathmandu. There is a Memorial of Begum Hazrat Mahal in Begum Hazrat Mahal Park, Lucknow. The Government of India on 10 May 1984, issued a commemorative stamp in honor of Mahal. 15,00,000 stamps were issued.